The morning that we arrived in Monterey Bay, the sky opened up. The stars and moon appeared to be just feet above the mast — I was tempted to throw a rope around the dazzling crescent and pull it onto the boat. A few minutes later a pod of dolphins joined us to swim in our bow wake. It was a spectacular way to enter the biggest marine sanctuary on the coast of California.

I was excited to come back to Monterey. I’d visited a few times as a kid, and have fond memories of the aquarium. The city is known for its resident sea lions, otters, seals, sardines, anchovies, and myriad other species of marine life that live in the thick kelp beds just off the beach.

But a few days into our stay, it became apparent that the animals that call these waters home are thinning. As we walked around the docks and shores, we saw just a few sea lions on the breakwater, even fewer seals, and no otters. At dinner one evening, hosted by an incredibly gracious couple that we met, Amy and Larry, we learned that this year, suddenly and without warning, the kelp beds are thinning and the fish are leaving. Without the fish, there’s not enough food for the sea lions, seals, and otters. There are normally around 250 resident sea lions in Monterey — this year there are only 150. And the otters and seals are nearly non-existent. It’s exceedingly sad… The pups are dying because the parents can’t find food.

Brian and I had no idea that this area was so impacted by environmental damage. A big reason we’re taking this trip is to learn about and explore the rich marine life in the Pacific Ocean. We vowed that we couldn’t just sit by and watch this happen.

We decided that with the SCUBA certification that we received while we were in Monterey (after a grueling 5 days of lecture, pool time, and open water dives) we’d donate our time to support marine conservation efforts. We’ll use our dive gear to help out other boaters clean their hulls, install new zincs, untangle anchor chains, and maybe even find propellers that have fallen off. We’ll donate every dollar that we earn to a worthy marine conservation agency. (If you know of any good ones, let us know!) It’s a small step, but we hope it’s one that will inspire others to help too.

We left Monterey Bay this morning and are anchored in Stillwater Cove, overlooking the Pebble Beach golf course. Tomorrow we’ll sail down to San Simeon to see Hearst Castle, and then on to Morro Bay and Southern California. We won’t let this distance make us forget our pledge to help. We’re excited to explore the ocean and know that our efforts are helping to keep it alive.

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